Routine, not scheduled. This is, in my mind, a really really important point. When people say you have to put your child to bed at the same time every night, I find myself wondering how it is possible for a child to internally need this. Clocks are a pretty recent invention. Natural rhythms follow light and body patterns, and these are almost never perfectly regular according to clock time. Natural routine is more like ritual. Accuracy over precision. The social unit is very important. (I believe you when you say your 1st child fell asleep by the clock, but I am pretty sure she was picking up clock time from her environment. If clock influences had been absent from your life, I find it hard to believe there is a child who would just naturally be suffering because of that.)
I don't see how the Yekhuana lifestyle is more comparable to staying inside a suburban house all day than to being among whirring digitized stimuli. It sounds like you have experienced an overscheduled, overstressed lifestyle, and that (pretty much by definition) isn't good for anybody. Children show the stress -- including the stress *we* are experiencing -- more quickly than we do. But the truth is, Yekhuana mothers and mothers of many other traditional societies do not stay home or have what we would consider a simple life. A lot of everyday life occurs outside, in a highly stimulating and even dangerous -- although natural -- environment, with a level of practically necessary physical exertion and travel on foot most of us do not come close to experiencing. Babies are incorporated into this lifestyle; it isn't possible to rearrange everything around them. This is the kind of relationship to our environment in which our bodies and their needs evolved.
Most people who are committed to TCC do not find it to be largely a justification for what they would do anyway. Check out the Continuum list at www.continuum-concept.org:
You will find that constantly or near constantly in-arms babies almost always object to the carseat, and many posters have made huge adjustments in their lives to accomodate their babies in this respect. They are not running their older children around to lessons and activities while popping baby in and out of the carseat. Many would believe that lots of lessons and activities undercut the intimate adult-child bonds that are important to growing securely into an adult social role, and segregate children from joining in the real adult world to learn about it. If you were to post a question about a child who had trouble falling asleep at night, you would almost inevitably get suggestions about using natural lighting and quiet activities in the evening, and perhaps going to bed earlier as a family. You would almost inevitably NOT get suggestions about establishing a child-centered, coercive routine involving putting just the child to bed at a certain clock time so that you could have your all-important "adult time" as a break in a day of otherwise uninterrupted child-centeredness. Or links to books and studies done on children with sleep problems that "prove" that waking to nurse causes health problems and therefore all children should be coerced to sleep in a certain way and on a certain schedule. I have absolutely never read a response suggesting that you ignore signs of fatigue because the book says so and your child will sleep if he needs to, regardless of what you do.
Based on research and thinking and experience, it is my impression that staying (inside an isolated nuclear) home and sitting around and being put down to sleep in an isolated place is not best for most children. This doesn't mean it is ok to ignore your child's cues, but it is certainly disingenuous to jump to the conclusion that any problem (for anyone else's child!) indicates that said child needs a standard western nap routine. This is a natural response to anxiety that we are not doing the best for our children. We step outside what is easy and approved of, and when there are problems, we always feel the pressure of blame. ("MIL must have been right after all...") Even when a standard western nap routine, in one particular context, allows someone who has trouble sleeping to get more sleep (which is great, assuming that greater harm is not done in the process), this does not indicate that his problems were all along caused by the lack of a standard western nap routine.
Sleep and discipline are two areas where the pressure is still really really hard to resist. It seems like it is much easier with breastfeeding, because there is so much sanctioned support for its health benefits, and we have decades of advocacy and a far larger population doing the "against the norm" (which is now actually pretty normal in many places) thing. I have noticed that very often, with regard to sleep and discipline, mothers who feel they are having desperate problems have many hold-outs in what adjustments they are willing to make and what possibilities they are willing to consider. I do not consider this "lazy," but I think it is often a product of shame and fear. Why be bitter about a dissonance between "AP ideals" and real life? We all have to make choices about what is best for us. If your perceived "AP ideals" are not really priorities *for you* but something you believe *should* be a priority, they aren't real ideals. "Sticking with them" would be dishonest. Children need honesty and coherence from their parents far more than they need any particular practice or routine. When you are making the right decision, it is the one in which shame and fear played little role. How can we raise liberated children without being liberated ourselves?
With this honesty and unlaziness, most people *can* solve their problems without using solutions (e.g. coersion, scheduling) that violate their ideals assuming these are true ideals they are willing to truly work for. (Note that I say work NOT sacrifice, because I honestly believe that on some level ultimately being in full commitment to your ideals is supposed to feel right and meet your needs, not be a win-lose scenario.) Again, though, ideals should be about accuracy, not precision, and the honesty part includes a degree of flexibility and openness. The connection, relationship, social unit and not the book are most important. But I don't see why being faithful to and living in these must be opposed to being faithful to and living according to ideals.
OMG, I am going ON AND ON AND ON. This has been my multi-page contribution explaining my discomfort. Like many of us, it taps into discomfort that comes up a lot reading about sleep and discipline issues at MDC. So little of this is about the logic of parenting practices, really, and so much more is about our inner lives as we experience what it is like to raise children.
ETA: Storytelling, musicmaking, dancing, holidays, and the like are universal human preoccupations. So while there the Yekhuana may not have TV, it's not like there is nothing analagous for them to do after dark. It is hard for me to believe that human life in ANY context has EVER been simple.